Skip to content

Another Bakken Shale Oil Train Derails and Explodes: This Time, in Alabama

November 12, 2013

Fossil fuels’ pathways of destruction intensify

A 90-car Bakken Shale oil train derailed and exploded on Friday, November 8th in Alabama, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air. The train carried the same fracked fossil fuel which killed 47 people this summer when a similar train derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Canada. It’s also the same fracked contents as in the mile-long trains coming through central Philadelphia twice a day, every day.


Smoke rises from derailed oil train cars in western Alabama on Nov. 8, 2013. Photo: WBMA via Reuters

Aljazeera America reported,

The train was heading from the oil boomtowns of North Dakota to a Shell chemical plant near Mobile, Alabama. Unlike in recent oil train derailments, there were no reports of injuries or deaths. But the incident was another reminder of the dangers of North America’s increased reliance on a patchwork of railroads used to transport billions of gallons of newly discovered oil across the United States and Canada.

Concern had already been raised after a July accident in Lac-Megantic, Canada, in which 47 people were killed.

In Alabama on Friday, 20 of the train’s cars derailed, throwing flames 300 feet into the air. Those cars were being left to burn down, which could take up to 24 hours, according to the train owner, Genesee & Wyoming.

Read the rest of this story here.

Grist further reported that this exploding and burning train polluted the wetlands. See their photo and story: Train loaded with oil derails, explodes, pollutes Alabama wetlands.

Series of Incidents Demonstrates Oil and Gas Train Dangers

Smoke rises in the distance as firefighters block a highway leading to an area where a train derailed, in the small town of Gainford, Alberta west of Edmonton October 19, 2013. (Reuters / Dan Riedlhuber)

Smoke rises in the distance as firefighters block a highway leading to an area where a train derailed, in the small town of Gainford, Alberta west of Edmonton October 19, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Dan Riedlhuber

On October 19th, just three weeks ago, 13 cars of another oil and gas train exploded in Canada. In this case it was the LPG cars — carrying liquified petroleum gas, commonly known as propane — which exploded and caused a fireball. The Bakken Shale oil trains coming through Philadelphia also carry LPG right through densely populated neighborhoods with no known emergency evacuation plan; most local populations are completely unaware of the fact that explosive fossil fuels are being transported in their neighborhoods, often within sight and sound and certainly within fireball range. See Fireball as Canadian oil and gas train derails, by RTE News, excerpted below:

One evacuee of the latest accident, Denise Anderson, said her friend’s house burned down as a result of the explosion.

“But I know my son where he’s living, they heard it and they saw the fire. They said the whole backyard lit up. So yeah, it was pretty scary. And a friend of ours, their house burnt down from that. I guess the car ended up, the railroad car ended up in their yard,” Anderson said.

Reuters reported the same incident as it unfolded; in “Update 3,” Reuters interviewed the County spokesman:

“We have cars on fire right now and there was an explosion earlier this morning. The major priority right now for our guys out in the field is containing these fires,” said Parkland County spokesman Carson Mills.

How many train derailments, and how many fireballs, does it take to stop the shale oil trains? How much climate change needs to happen before we stop the fracking flaring in the Bakken Shale oilfields, where 1,500 fires are burning right now? Are these the actions of a rational society or the actions of an addict?

Speak Out! Stop Climate Suicide

As the death toll rises from the devastating typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, we know that our small world is connected. Scientists and climatologists continue to tell us that superstorms are made more likely, more severe and more frequent as warming oceans build the intensity of storms like Sandy and Haiyan. The Philippines Climate Change Commissioner gave an emotional message to the UN climate change talks now underway — one we should heed, even as we scramble to help the living.

Whether you live in the path of Haiyan, or simply near a train track in the U.S. or Canada carrying the new loads of monster shale oil and gas trains — it’s time to speak up. The lives of those who already have suffered most and will suffer most from climate change are in our hands — and so are our own lives. Business as usual is unthinkable, but that’s what’s happening here. We are witness to the banality of evil, and if we do not interrupt it, we are ourselves complicit.

Whether you live in  in Los Angeles — where the Los Angeles Times just reported that EPA Commissioners were sickened while inspecting an oil facility this week — or in Alabama, where this fireball exploded just four days ago; whether you live in Illinois, where a natural gas liquids (think propane and ethane) pipeline caused a huge fireball 300 feet high just three months ago, in August 2013, or in any of the areas where fracking waste is being re-injected deep underground, causing earthquakes (Arkansas, Texas, and Ohio, for starters); whether you live in Wisconsin, where beautiful areas are being devastated by massive silica “frack sand” mining projects, or in New Jersey, where compressor stations are releasing toxic fumes and LNG export facilities for shale gas are proposed; whether you live in Maryland, where the Cove Point LNG export facility is being fought hard, or in Laguna Pueblo or the Navajo Nation, where people have been fighting deadly extraction for hundreds of years — this is all one fight, with many fronts.

Protecting your own safety, if you live near train tracks and the rail cars carrying Bakken Shale oil and gas are rolling near you, could possibly help slow the suicidal extraction, processing, transport and export of shale oil and gas products. This is where safety and solidarity come together. This is where compassion and courage meet climate action. But there is not yet a massive organization to help you figure out how to speak out and speak up to stop the shale oil and gas trains endangering so many lives right now.

So as you figure out how to speak up where you are, comment here to tell us what you’ve done — from a letter to the editor to a phone call to local authorities to an outright campaign — and tell us what the response is.  Stop the fracking flaring — stop the climate suicide — and stop the oil and gas trains’ unsafe passage.

  1. November 13, 2013 9:00 am

    A natural gas ad has been placed at the bottom of your post by WordPress! It as only a matter of time… And it’s not visible to the editor of the post, btw. I think you can contact WP and demand that they remove it, of course, they will probably tell you that you have to buy a “premium service” to make it go away. This kind of thing makes my head explode!

  2. November 20, 2013 5:49 am

    There was just a meeting in Seattle last night on the planned 11 terminals just in WA state for oil-transporting trains, Three are already in operation. Trying to organize to slow or stop the other 8. Several groups organized the meeting, 100 people attended – pretty impressive, if even half get actively involved.


  1. Deliberately dangerous: WesPac’s plan for extreme crudes | Pittsburg Defense Council

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: